North Korea has called for stricter and more thorough measures against the coronavirus at a meeting presided over by its leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported, without acknowledging whether the country had reported any infections.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday that the virus had created obstacles to the country’s effort in its economic construction, describing the pandemic as “a great disaster threatening the whole mankind, regardless of borders and continents”.
However, North Korea “has been maintaining [a] very stable anti-epidemic situation” thanks to its “strict top-class emergency anti-epidemic measures … consistency and compulsoriness in the nationwide protective measures,” the KCNA said.
Experts have said North Korea is particularly vulnerable to the virus because of its weak healthcare system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.
Officials have previously insisted the North remains totally free of the virus.
The World Health Organization said 709 people – 11 foreigners and 698 nationals – have been tested for the virus as of April 2, while more than 24,800 people have been released from quarantine.
The KCNA said officials at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Saturday called for a strict and thorough check of the infiltration of the virus.
A joint resolution was adopted “on more thoroughly taking national measures for protecting the life and safety of our people to cope with the worldwide epidemic disease”, it said.
The resolution also included goals of “continuously intensifying the nationwide emergency anti-epidemic services and pushing ahead with the economic construction, increasing national defence capability and stabilizing the people’s livelihood this year”.
But photos released by North Korea’s state media showed that none of the committee members who attended the meeting including Kim Jong Un was wearing a mask nor sitting far apart from each other.
North Korea had closed its borders with neighbouring China in January after the first coronavirus cases were detected there. It also put thousands of its own people and hundreds of foreigners – including diplomats – into isolation and mounted disinfection drives.
Nearly every other country has reported coronavirus cases. Aside from China, South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the virus.
Recorded cases of infection across 193 countries and territories now exceed one 1.7 million, including more than 108,000 deaths, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.